A research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory has developed a complete representation in LEGO [tm] of the Experimental Breeder Reactor I which at the Idaho site in 1951 was one of the first nuclear reactors to generate electrical power.Catherine Riddle, PhD, (right) is a research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. She developed the concept of EBR-I in LEGO as a product idea and posted her information about it at the LEGOs web site.
Calling her project Atomic Power Town, it is a complete representation in LEGO of the EBR-I. On the LEGO website she goes by the nickname of RadCat. The web site displaying her project has a 15 image photo gallery. It is not to be missed!
Riddle describes the project this way;
“Atomic Town Power is the electricity producing heart of our mini-figures town! It lights, heats and runs all of their favorite electrical gadgets using clean energy.”
The building itself is based on the 1951 Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-1) which produced electricity for the very first time using nuclear power. The string of four bulbs on the generator level of Atomic Town Powers interior are reminiscent of the four 200 watt light bulbs which glowed brightly at EBR-1 the afternoon of December 20, 1951.
As to why she devoted what appears to be an enormous amount of time and energy to deploy the EBR-I model, she writes;
“It is my greatest hope to not only work towards establishing clean energy but also to educate the next generation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) which is why both the STEM and clean energy flags fly proudly over Atomic Town Power. What better way for everyone to think clean energy than to build their very own EBR-1 nuclear reactor.”
See also this YouTube video in which Riddle talks about her project.
A summary of the project includes these details.
Inside the power plant Riddle tells readers we find an experimental breeder reactor at the heart of the building along with multiple support areas including;
- a hot cell that can be rotated to the inside of the reactor,
- a cooling canal for fuel removal,
- electrical generator,
- chemistry laboratory,
- overhead crane to open the reactor lid, and
- reactor control room
According to Riddle, the reactor lid can be opened using the overhead crane to reveal the core design and fuel rods. When the lid is closed, the reactor lights up using a light brick and the acronym EBR-1 shines through on both sides of the reactor into our power plant.
On the second floor mezzanine level, Riddle notes there are two steam vessels and a generator producing electricity to light four bulbs as scientist and engineers take data. Each of the EBR-1 LED light bulbs light up to indicate the flow of electricity to Atomic Town. The generator mezzanine level lifts off to reveal the power plants reception area and the reactor control operations room.
On the main floor, left of the reactor, Riddle has included a chemistry laboratory where tests are performed to keep the reactor in good health and producing power for the residence of Atomic Town. The laboratory in LEGO assembled by Riddle has instruments and sample containers ready for testing.
Side Notes on SCRAM
To the back wall of the reactor room are steps that lead to the control and reception area as well as a radiation safety control area and the safety control rod axe man (SCRAM) with his trusty axe in case of emergency.
Note to Readers: See this blog post at the NRC on the origin of the term “SCRAM.” Here’s a summary.
“One deeply engrained legend about the origin of the word dates to the first sustained chain reaction on December 2, 1942, at the Chicago Pile (CP-1), the first atomic reactor developed for the Manhattan Project. “
“According to the legend, Enrico Fermi created the acronym, Safety Control Rod Axe Man, for Norman Hilberry.
It was Hilberry’s assignment that day to kill a possible runaway reaction by using an axe to cut a rope to allow the backup safety control rod to drop into the pile.”
Side Note on Fast than Light Electrons
In Riddle’s LEGO setup the hot cell, on the right side of the reactor, has cell manipulator handles that rotate and a turntable that can bring samples from the reactor into the hot cell. Anyone viewing the area would see one of the unique displays of light in physics.
The reactor cooling canal area is a pool of Cherenkov radiation infused blue water and fuel rods from the core can be laid in it to cool down. Here’s what the real thing looks like. The blue color results when a charged particle, most commonly an electron, travels through water with a speed greater than that at which light propagates in the same body of water.
Photo Credit: Advanced Test Reactor core, Idaho National Laboratory
About EBR-I – Wikipedia
Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. It was the world’s first breeder reactor.
EBR-I became one of the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plants when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs. EBR-I subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964.
Visit a Piece of Nuclear Energy History
The EBR-I museum located 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, is open for visitors from late May until early September. Directions – take US 20 west from Idaho Falls. Driving time is about an hour. Check museum web site for tour information, map (below), and phone number. Admission is free.
About Dr. Catherine Riddle
Catherine Riddle, PhD, is a research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. Her radiochemistry research involves multiple areas and disciplines including; separations science for nuclear energy and new clean energy technologies. Catherine is an inventor with multiple science based patents and international research collaborations.
Her goal is to leave the world a better place and educate children to do the same. Catherine has been a leader in not only technological advances, but she also is a champion of mentoring young upcoming scientists and future scientists through volunteering her time, energy, and expertise to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs for K-12 students.
Catherine has reached multiple thousands of students over the past 13 years with workshops and presentations using chemistry and physics to show children science can be fun.
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